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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" <ddanehy@siebel.com>
Subject: RE: (whorl) Soul & Body
Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2001 15:13:17 

Whooee! The fur is flying. (Possibly the fur on Quetzal's 
stole?) And if anyone out there is about to protest this
turning into a Christian discussion group -- Start something
else equally interesting.

The Rat in the Vat wrote:

> Our doctrine says that the soul (person) is separated
> from the physical body at death, but rejoined to a 
> new body (new atoms) in the resurrection. 

Stripped of the Platonic-Aristotelean terminology, that's
what Augustine was talking about too. (I *think* it was

> But, despite the many ways in which all branches of
> the Church keep lapsing into gnosticism, Biblical
> religion is very physical, sexual, culinary, festive,
> and bodily -- thus sacramental in the best sense. 

Man, you and I have to have an offline talk about this
sometime. This has always seemed to me a very Catholic 
idea -- we call it "incarnationalism" -- and I'm really 
amazed to see it coming from a Reformed fellah.

> Now, "What happens if one soul gets into another body?" 

Before we can answer that we have to answer the question
"what is a soul, and is it different from spirit and from
memory and from personality, and if so, how?" At least in
Mr Wolfe's work 8*)

Questions, I think, much more interesting than any answers
I've ever seen for them...

> on Christian presuppositions there is a vast problem. Souls
> don't "merge," and the body is really an extension of the
> soul. Each soul has its own proper body, and none other.

H'mmm. I take it you don't believe in "demon possession," or
any other kind, then. Stated as fact, not praise or 

On the "merging" question, though, I don't know of any 
Christian doctrine, however splinter, that would fit that.

Okay: granted (as I hope we do) that Wolfe is writing 
from a Christian viewpoint, I think it's safe to say that 
whatever passes between people (and machines) in the various
mind-or-body-swapping games, it isn't the soul, except,
possibly, in Mucor's case. Yet manifestly the _personality_
transfers. So, what's up, Doc?

Good on ya bringing up Cordwainer Smith. I have to 
reread the Casher O'Neill stories, it's been years.

> ... who are the "new Thecla" and the "new Horn"? Have
> the original Thelca and Horn gone on to their reward
> with the Outsider, so that we have new persons, with
> new destinies, now travelling inside of Severian and
> Silk? Or is it that old Horn and Thecla are not really
> yet dead and are continuing their lives inside Silk
> and Severian?

Can't be the latter if souls don't merge, because Thecla/
Sev and Silkhorn do indeed seem to merge in some important
way. So the "Horn" in Silkhorn, the "Thecla" and "Autarchs"
in Severian-Plus, I think, can't be the people themselves
(again, with the maybe? exception of Thecla resurrected by
the Claw?). 

Or not? It's pretty durned confusing.

> Again, what is the "soul status" of a download, like
> Mainframe Pas, Kypris, or Silk? Are these separate
> persons? Are they real persons, who can change, who
> are images of God in some sense, and who will go to
> the Outsider in the end? Or are they just mechanical
> programmes? 

If the inhumi and the chems have "soulhood," then so, I
suppose, do the Mainframe residents.

There's a weirder issue about Mainframe, though -- remember
that the Vironese who ride the airship to Mainframe meet
their dead there. Is it possible that Wolfe is positing a
machine that can actually capture souls before they depart
the Whorl? If so, that's a hideous concept indeed.

(And I'm reminded also of the Babylon-5 concept of the
"Soul Hunters." Not the first time, nor I suppose shall it
be the last, that something in Mr Straczynski's reminded 
me of something in Mr Wolfe's and/or vice versa... 

On an almost totally offtopic note, I'm fascinated that
the muzzy mystic Roddenberry thought of religion as 
something humanity would "outgrow," while the coldly
atheistic Straczynski not only keeps religion important
to humans in his future, he posits objectively measurable
souls. There will be more about JMS later this post.)

> How does Wolfe treat them? Or does Wolfe keep them
> backstage precisely because there really is no answer
> to such questions within his own Christian framework? 

Again, the chems come in handy as a talking-point here. 
I feel reasonably certain that Mr Wolfe intends us to
view Marble and Hammerstone (the only chems we get to
know very well) as ensouled beings. Yet Hammerstone proves
to be highly reprogrammable.

We have to consider the chems, also, as the reductio ad
absurdum of the old claim that if we had a soul, we'd be
able to find it when we vivisected a living human, but
we don't, so we don't. The chems literally build their
offspring extrasomatically, and if there were a physical
location for a soul they'd know it...

(I think the answer, from the Christian viewpoint, is,
"if humans build something capable of hosting a soul,
God is capable of putting a soul into it, though it's
in His free choice whether to do so or not.")

> I guess my point is that to press into these questions may
> be pointless. Such combinations of persons work at a symbolic
> level, and can be dramatized in a SF narrative as a literary
> device. But this is literature, not philosophy.

Right, mostly: there's something kind of pathetic about the
litcrit mentality that whenever it sees a symbolic structure
has to find The Interpretation. Wolfe's writing, like any 
writing complex enough to be worth discussing, is polysemous
and doesn't have a Correct Symbolic Interpretation -- rather,
it's a rich stew of symbolic and metaphoric _stuff_, which can
be eaten many ways (but, I fear, tasted for the first time only
once -- in a state of expectant confusion). 

> There is a good deal of such stuff in Cordwainer Smith, given 
> Linebarger's interest in psychoanalysis, such as the question
> of what happens to a "person" if his entire memory is wiped 
> (i.e., at the end of "The Dead Lady of Clown Town"). 

... which is where Straczynski has to come back into the game
here. One can and I think should draw a close comparison between
"Dead Lady," Latro, and Brother Wossis in "A Walk Through
Gethsemane." (Patrat, if you haven't watched B5, you ***MUST***
watch at least that episode; your life will be better for it.)

> The Christian answer has to be that God preserves the
> person, in His own way, though we cannot see it. 

I don't like these "has to"s. The Christian answer can just
as easily be "God knows what it is that makes a person a 
person, and we don't." Does the total-amnesiac become a new
soul, is the old one "crossed over the river"? I don't know
and profoundly distrust anyone else's claim that they do, or
that they know how many souls an MPD patient has. What I do
know is that both of them have at least one and must be treated
with the full dignity due to a person -- as also must anything
else that _might_ have a soul. Meet an alien, meet a machine
that acts like it has a personality (I don't mean the simple
misreading of Turing's test, I mean really _acts_ like it), 
and you're in territory where the only justifiable course is
to treat it as a person. Otherwise you're in the same position
as the Reconstruction-era writer who claimed that persons of
African descent (he used the N word) didn't have souls...


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